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Drug resistance fears over eye drops

27th November 2009

An Oxford University study has suggested that selling non-prescription antibiotic eye medication has resulted in a sharp increase in usage.

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The research showed that sales of chloramphenicol, a medicine used to treat conjunctivitis, had reached 3.7 million two years after they were made available over the counter.

The eye drops were reclassified by the Medicines and Health Regulatory Agency in 2005 so they could be given to patients without a prescription.

Some researchers have warned that this could lead to a rise in drug-resistant infections, as conjunctivitis was often cured without medication.

Dr Peter Rose, the lead researcher and a practising GP, said: "At a time when we are encouraging less reliance on antibiotics, the rise we found is concerning.We need to see the NHS and patients take more care with the use of drugs."

However Dr Jim Kennedy, the prescribing spokesman for the Royal College of GPs, said: "I would be more worried if the rise was much higher, perhaps two or three times. Patients now have better access to drugs and it has freed up doctors a bit. It is something we should keep monitoring, however."

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